Library of Living Classics

Lincoln MacVeagh / The Dial Press (New York, US) & Longmans, Green & Co. (Toronto, CA)
Series dates: 1928-1931
Size: 6.5″ x 9.5″

George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1928-1936

Tudor Publishing Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1933-1941

The Dial Press, founded in 1923 by Lincoln MacVeagh, had at least three series in the firm’s formative years: The Fireside Library (1925-1928), the Library of Living Classics (1928-1931), and the Golden Dragon Library (1929-1931). None of these series extended past a dozen titles and none added titles after 1931.

The Library of Living Classics were edited by writer and editor Manuel Komroff. The series was co-published by Dial Press and Longmans, Green & Co. of Toronto. These two firms co-published books between 1928 and 1932, possibly as a way to sell books both in the U.S. and Canada. The series was co-published in the UK by Harrap. The series reached only seven titles, the last published in 1929. Some reprints are evident after that date, extending to 1936 for one Harrap title, but the series was for all intents and purposes defunct.

Before accepting a position as the American minister to Greece in 1933, MacVeagh sold the Dial Press to Max Salop, owner of the Harlem Book Co. The Harlem Book Co. supplied remaindered books to department stores and drug stores and had begun reprinting titles for sales to the same clients. Salop established the Tudor Publishing Co. in 1933. While the Dial Press under Salop continued its focus on literary publishing, remaindered titles in the Library of Living Thoughts were rejacketed and sold by Tudor, and many of the titles were eventually reprinted with the Tudor imprint. Certain titles, such as The Great Fables of All Nations, were later reprinted by Tudor in slightly revised form and no longer part of the Library of Living Thoughts series. Salop sold the Dial Press to Burton Hoffman (Knight Publishers) in 1938, and eventually Dial became part of Doubleday.

The seven titles in the Library of Living Thoughts are listed below. The dates of initial publication are followed by the imprints under which the books are to be found on WorldCat. WorldCat contains no reference to the Nietzsche being published in the UK by Harrap. It’s possible there were European copyright issues which prohibited the publication. Most of the titles were reprinted by Tudor at least once after 1933.

1928 (Dial, Tudor, Tudor): The History of Herodotus. George Rawlinson & Manuel Komroff (eds.)
1928 (Dial, Harrap, Tudor): The Great Fables of All Nations. Manuel Komroff (ed.)
1928 (Dial, Harrap, Tudor): Tales of the Monks, from the Gesta Romanorum. Manuel Komroff (ed.)
1928 (Dial, Harrap, Tudor): The Romances of Voltaire. H. Woolfe & R. Boswell (trans.), Manuel Komroff (ed.)
1928 (Dial, Tudor): Thus Spake Zarathustra. Manuel Komroff (ed.)
1929 (Dial, Harrap): The Persian Letters of Montesquieu. John Davidson & Manuel Komroff (eds.)
1929 (Dial, Harrap, Tudor): The Apocrypha, Manuel Komroff (ed.)

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The Library of Living Thoughts books are massive: among the largest of literary reprint series books in the 20th century. At 6.5″ x 9.5″ they are well above the typical 12mo or smaller 8mo size of most reprint series. The books are heavy and well made, and the price ($4) made the books among the most expensive of the reprint series. Given that both Dial Press and Harrap stressed high quality literary works and were also known to have better than average book design and production, it is likely that the hope was a higher end but higher quality reprint series would fill a niche in the market dominated by smaller format books costing around $1. The demise of the series not long after it began in the early ’30s is likely a consequence of the U.S. Great Depression, but possibly also an indication that reprint series should be cheaper and more modest.

The entire jacket for a copy of The Romances of Voltaire dated 1928 is shown below, with close-ups of the front and rear of the jacket following. This copy has the Tudor imprint on the dust jacket spine, but the book imprint is Dial Press/Longmans. This particular book is likely a left over (remaindered) copy of a book printed by Dial in 1928, but re-jacketed and sold by Tudor after 1933. The original Dial Press jackets were unique to each title. Remainders sold by Tudor probably had similar common jackets, which may have been replaced by different jackets when Tudor reprinted the books themselves in the 1930s and early 1940s.

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The series name is at the center of a decorative disk that spans the back, spine and front of the jacket. The book price ($4) and blurb are on the front jacket flap. The Tudor Publications imprint appears at the bottom of the front jacket flap.

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Another Library of Living Thoughts title, Tales of the Monks, is advertised on the rear jacket flap.

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Bindings are black cloth with gold decorations and typography. A decorative seal is debossed on the front of the book.

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The half title page; the book is printed on heavier, high quality paper.

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The title page with the 1928 printing date and Dial/Longmans imprint.

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The Copyright page:

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